By Toby Welch

Selling a home that has challenging neighbours adds another level of complexity. But it can be done!

Jasmine Lee, a broker with Re/Max Hallmark Realty in Toronto, had a neighbour issue with one of her sales. “We had a listing and the neighbours with connecting lawns would never cut their grass and maintain the curb appeal. So, our seller clients ended up cutting the grass and maintaining the curb appeal to add more value to their listing and the way it showed.”



Jasmine Lee
Jasmine Lee

Angela Langtry, a broker at Century 21 Immo-Plus in Montreal, also had a listing with less-than-ideal neighbours. “Several years ago, I had an attached house for sale in Pointe-St-Charles in Montreal with neighbours who basically used their backyard for leftover construction materials, which potential buyers could see from the upper back balcony of the house. In addition, the soundproofing between the neighbouring wall was poor and we could sometimes hear the kids yelling and the neighbours arguing. We found a soundproofing solution and buyers who didn’t mind the junkyard, and got the house sold.”

In many cases, the offending neighbour may not even realize that they are doing something offensive. They truly may be unaware that their behaviour is affecting others. Unless safety is a concern, encourage the sellers to have a respectful and diplomatic discussion with the neighbours to see if they can come to a resolution that works for both parties. With their bottom line at stake, it’s worth a shot.

Jennifer McIntosh-Davies
Jennifer McIntosh-Davies

That is exactly what Jennifer McIntosh-Davies, a sales associate with Re/Max Realty Professionals in Calgary, did. Her sellers lived in a duplex and the people who lived in the other half of the residence had a backyard full of junk. McIntosh-Davies knew that in the current Calgary market, they couldn’t afford to have the home look shabby. They approached the neighbours, who were accommodating; they didn’t want to do any of the work but were happy to have it done for them. McIntosh-Davies told the sellers to add into their budget the cost of cleaning up the neighbour’s yard. Problem solved.

On the upside, what your sellers think of as obnoxious when it comes to their neighbours may not upset someone else. It may not be as hard to find a buyer as anticipated. For example, a neighbour with a yard full of semi-functional vehicles may not faze a weekend wannabe mechanic. A buyer who loves to gossip may not be put off by a neighbour who sits on their porch all day shouting at passersby.

Lee offers advice for what to do with a listing’s nuisance neighbours. “Introduce yourself to the neighbour and see if you can offer some of your referrals to help with the yard clean up. If they party 24/7, work on possible hours and days for the partying. With a nuisance dog, have a conversation about a solution for both sides. It’s about creating the win-win for all parties involved.”

McIntosh-Davies adds: “It’s all about spinning things.” By the time people are at odds with each other, it is to the advantage of the neighbour who is staying behind that the seller’s house is sold. McIntosh-Davies suggests talking to the neighbours and encouraging them to do whatever is possible to help sell the house, the best possible outcome for both parties.

We’ve all heard the stories of late-night partying neighbours and dogs next door that bark nonstop. But that’s just the beginning. These horrid neighbours, all real-life examples, could really put a kink in a home sale:

  • Neighbours who come into the backyard to hang their laundry on your clothesline
  • Neighbours who constantly call the police because you back into your own driveway
  • Neighbours who erect a pool – complete with a wooden jumping platform – in their front yard, bordering your property and the sidewalk
  • Pilfering neighbours who steal from your garden
  • Hoarders whose piles of stuff encroach on your property
  • Neighbours who slash your tires
  • Neighbours who install barbed wire on the top of your shared fence
  • Neighbours who dig trenches to undermine the foundation of your garage

Langtry shares her thoughts on what to do about troublesome neighbours: “I would advise the agent or seller to speak with the neighbours and/or landlord of the neighbours, if rented. Century 21 has discounts with 1-800-Got-Junk who can clean up the yard (if the neighbour agrees). The agent or seller could offer to pay to remove the debris. Police can be called for noise disturbances, especially after 11 p.m. Either way, be fully transparent with potential buyers about the situation. For the right price and at the right time, a buyer will come along that will be willing to tolerate or deal with it. There is a solution to every problem, and a good Realtor is a great problem solver.”

But use caution when interacting with questionable neighbours. This summer, an agent in Pelham, Ont. was confronted by a nightmare neighbour while conducting a showing. The neighbour approached them brandishing a gun. The agent immediately got himself and the prospective buyers to safety and called the police. It turned out to be an airsoft gun, although it looks like the real thing. The neighbour was charged with possession of a weapon for a dangerous purpose, among other things.

In January, a Kelowna, B.C. man was so fed up with his bullying neighbour that he decided to put his house on the market. He staked a sign on his front yard that read “Home for Sale by Owner Because Neighbour is an A**hole.” Despite the sign, the family received multiple offers on the house, giving hope to the rest of us that even the most horrific neighbours won’t kill a deal.

4 COMMENTS

  1. in the interests of full disclosure and transparency prior to writing an offer with a prospective purchaser I would explain the situation and have them personally with me pay visit to the neighbor and introduce them and make a judgement call after spending a little time with the neighbor. If doing this the buyer still wants to make an offer make sure you have some signed paperwork stating accepting the situation as revealed by the realtor.

  2. Good point. That is why it is always smart to canvass the neighbours, at least three on either side of the subject property, as well as across the street if possible, to gain an impression of the local culture and all ’round area neighbourliness, not to mention any locally known (or suspected) problems with the subject property. To not do one’s own research when even only toying with the idea of purchasing one of the largest items in one’s lifetime is a form of stupidity. Life is hard, but it is harder if you are stupid.

  3. Interesting article. Actually made me laugh because of the antics that anyone could possibly think of doing to their neighbor. The seller that wanted to improve their curb appeal in order to sell their property, by cutting the neighbors lawn and maintaining the curb appeal was doing something deceptive and misleading, in my opinion. That action was only a temporarily measure that was masking the truth about their neighbor’s care of their property. Better know the truth than to be deceived into thinking that their neighbor actually takes good care of their property.

    • Can anyone speak to this?

      It’s one thing to help a neighbour who doesn’t maintain tied lands in order to protect your own equity over time; perhaps the neighbour is a senior or in distress of some kind.

      But it’s quite different if this is done for the express purpose of misleading a would-be buyer who unknowingly in his purchase agreement has not committed to carry on the practice. Or if there’s just an uncaring or lazy neighbour sharing the groundskeeping. We all know neighbours talk and it won’t be long before the new owner discovers he’s been hoodwinked, perhaps.

      Is this grounds to claim negligent misrepresentation perhaps against the listing agent? Either through or not, the buyer’s agent? (Agent means companies involved… not just the sales rep(s).)

      A shared driveway and or the meeting up of grassy areas in unmaintained joins or even including the setback city-owned but not city-maintained portion, can sometimes be a transaction-killer.

      Snow season covers a multitude of sins, not the least of which is lack of yard care. Issues maybe don’t arise until the following spring. Absolutely canvass the neighbours.

      Has anyone ever bought a house that had been staged and cleaned of pet odours, for the purpose of selling, only to find out once they moved in, doggie-doo-stains throughout on the carpet or ruined hardwood floors? Obviously not further maintained once an APS was in place…

      A pre-closing additional viewing 48 hours before closing clause might be an appropriate request at offer presentation time?

      Carolyne L 🍁

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